Racial health disparities have been magnified dramatically by the COVID-19 crisis. In the Boston area, where Quality Interactions is based, we see that the hardest-hit communities are ones of color, where social distancing is a luxury not available to most residents. The epidemic is disproportionately affecting our most vulnerable populations, while also widening the gaps in preexisting health disparities. One of the most shocking amplifications of this is in maternal healthcare.
Why Being Black in America is Bad for Your Health
After more than a year of in-depth reporting in Baltimore, The Atlantic has published a long read that explores why, as a group, black Americans are significantly less healthy than white Americans. The piece follows a woman named Kairra, who is 27, black, very overweight, and suffers from a host of health problems that are usually associated with people three times her age. In Baltimore, as well as other segregated cities like Chicago and Philadelphia, the low-income, mostly black neighborhoods have a life expectancy that is 20 years lower than more affluent, whiter neighborhoods. The gap can be attributed to several factors, including violence, diet, environmental hazards, substance abuse, and stress.
In this week's News Roundup:
- Creating Financial Success at a Small Rural Hospital
- Gender Bias Hinders Research in Chronic Disease
- The Business Case for Racial Equity
Creating Financial Success at a Small Rural Hospital
An in-depth piece from Politico Magazine explores how a small, rural hospital in Kansas has become an economic powerhouse by serving the local refugee/immigrant population and specializing in labor and delivery. Ben Anderson, the hospital's CEO, relies on community partnerships, infrastructure grants, and targeted recruiting. His recruiting model is especially interesting: He attracts young physicians who are interested in helping Third World populations. "You can do that work right here in Kansas," he says. Having a staff that actively seeks to work with diverse populations improves patient experience and outcomes.
In this week's News Roundup:
- Near-Miss Mothers: For Every Woman Who Dies Post-Childbirth, Thousands More Come Close
- Surging Opioid Overdose Rate in Latinos Tied to Language Barriers
- More Transgender-Inclusive Healthcare is Essential
Near-Miss Mothers: For Every Woman Who Dies Post-Childbirth, Thousands More Come Close
The maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are grim, but the number of women who suffer postpartum complications that nearly cause death are even worse. For every woman who dies after childbirth, at least 70 come close. Some estimates put the number of women who suffer "severe maternal morbidity" at around 80,000 per year. A report by NPR/ProPublica finds that many of these complications are preventable, and there's a common theme that postpartum mothers don't feel their concerns are taken seriously by healthcare providers.
In this week's News Roundup:
- Unconscious Bias Training Can Ease Crisis in Black Maternal Mortality
- Stigmatizing Language in Medical Records Affects Patient Care
- Discrimination Causes Latinas to Be Less Satisfied with Contraception
- Documentary Explores Desegregation of Healthcare System
We've reported extensively on the dismal maternal mortality rates in the U.S., and the crisis in black maternal mortality in particular. A new piece by NBC News follows the stories of two black mothers who experienced serious complications with their deliveries. Both women felt their medical teams were dismissive and brusque, and that their health problems may have been avoided with better communication. They are among the 32% of black women who feel they’ve been discriminated against in physicians’ offices. Unconscious (or implicit) bias on the part of healthcare providers has very real consequences for patient outcomes. Bias training may not be the complete solution, but it is part of the solution, and should become a standard practice in all medical schools and healthcare organizations.
Asian Americans Undertreated for Mental Health Disorders
Racial Bias Isn't Just a Problem at Starbucks
A video of two black men getting arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia has sparked widespread outrage directed at both Starbucks and the police. In response, Starbucks announced that it will close 8,000 stores in May so employees can engage in racial bias training. "While this is not limited to Starbucks, we're committed to being a part of the solution," said CEO Kevin Johnson. The problem certainly isn't limited to one company, or one industry, or one region of the country. There are any number of examples of white Americans calling the police on black Americans without real justification. Deeply ingrained and unconscious racial bias routinely leads to instant, often fear-based judgements about people that can have dire consequences. The question is, what can we do to break this cycle?
Unconscious Bias in Healthcare Impacts Bottom Line
Unconscious bias leads to health disparities for patients, and has a negative effect on healthcare workers as well. Unconscious bias can cause both patients and staff to be treated differently based on gender, race, language spoken, lifestyle choices, and more. This results in higher staff attrition and and lower patient satisfaction—and in turn, it negatively effects healthcare organizations' bottom line.
Implicit Bias Controversy Based on Misunderstandings
Implicit bias, and especially the Implicit Association Test (IAT), has been the subject of recent debate in both scientific and popular press. Is the IAT accurate? Are its findings useful? Does the concept of implicit bias impede efforts to address explicit bias? A new piece in Scientific American argues that the controversy around implicit bias and the IAT is based on fundamental misunderstandings. For example, the IAT isn't designed to predict individual behavior, like how a particular physician will interact with a particular patient. Rather, the aggregate data can help predict (and correct) big-picture functions.
New Report Links Black Maternal Mortality to Racial Bias
The Center for American Progress released a new report on the high death rates among black mothers and infants in the U.S. As previously reported here, black mothers die at at rate three to four times higher than white mothers, and infants born to black women die at twice the rate of those born to white women. The disparity is driving the country's overall maternal mortality rate, which is the worst in the developed world. This growing crisis can't be explained by socioeconomic factors. The report presents research showing that risk factors including income, education, and physical and mental health cannot account for the disparity in outcomes. Instead, the report points to systematic racial bias, including within the healthcare system.